Best of the West: Northern California flooding; Hawaii volcano changed the map; outstanding state parks

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Feb. 25, 2019 that you don't want to miss. Image: National Weather Service San Francisco Bay Area

Extreme flooding has isolated the town of Guerneville in Northern California. The small community near the Russian River is currently only accessible by boat. Other communities near Guerneville such as Monte Rio are also experiencing flooding, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in 21 counties. Severe winter storms “have caused flooding, mudslides, erosion, power outages, and damage to critical infrastructure,” stated the proclamation.

The river crested at more than 45 feet after rising steadily from 9 feet on Monday, leaving Guerneville’s population of 4,500 surrounded by floodwaters. “Due to flooding all roads leading to the community are impassable. You will not be able to get into or out of town without a boat today,” said a Feb. 27 Facebook post by the Sonoma sheriff’s office.

More than 2,000 homes, businesses and other buildings were flooded as of Feb. 28, but no injuries have been reported and waters are expected to begin receding by this weekend.

Uncharted Territory: Lava flows from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano eruption last year added about 875 acres of new land to the Big Island, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. USGS biologists released a preliminary map showing the thickness of the lava, and will release a final map when all remote sensing data has been collected and processed.

Stellar State Parks: Six of the top ten state parks that give national parks a run for their money are in the West, according to Budget Travel. Custer State Park in South Dakota took the top spot; see which others made the list. And after a recording-setting year for Oregon state parks, state officials are working on a plan to draw people to their lesser-known parks.  

Utah and USDA Partner to Address Opioids:  To confront its growing opioid epidemic and support addicts in recovery, Utah is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to potentially develop new recovery housing. “They need additional help, and they're looking to agencies like ours to help provide solutions,” said USDA Rural Development public information officer Jamie Welch-Jaro.

The Great Outdoor$: Western states lead the nation in creating offices dedicated to boosting outdoor recreation and the economy, and others are catching on. “We’re now beyond the point of just saying it’s a bunch of people running around in the woods having fun,” said Rachel VandeVoort, director of Montana’s Office of Outdoor Recreation. “Those people out in the woods having fun are spending a lot of money.” Read about the outdoor recreation roundtable, which included VandeVoort, at WGA’s Winter Meeting.

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